H.E. Dr Harib Al Amimi,
President of the Supreme Audit Institution of the United Arab Emirates (SAI UAE)
in an interview with the newspaper Al-Ittihad
Published: Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Jomaa Al Noaimi, Abu Dhabi
H.E. Dr Harib Al Amimi, President of the SAI of the UAE, confirmed that 20 fiscal criminal cases concerning more than 20 different government authorities have been referred to the public prosecution service. These cases are related to several offences committed in 2014, such as theft, corruption, enrichment, forgery, embezzlement, misappropriation, and appropriation of public funds. The total loss has been quantified at over 250 million dirham. His Excellency informed Ittahad: "The total amount which the SAI claimed for repayment and which had been spent during that year unlawfully and in violation of all rules and regulations governing the use and management of public funds, is over one billion dirham. Up to 220 million dirham have been successfully reclaimed already, as the SAI is still trying to recover the remaining amount."
Dr Al Amimi added: "The SAI audits the financial operations of all government entities which, under the Constitution, by law or statutory framework, are subject to government audit. In the course of its work, the SAI performs different types of audits, including financial audits, performance audits and IT audits as well as audits of the account systems and financial registers, settlements and financial statements of all government institutions subject to audit by the SAI."
H.E. moreover indicated that the SAI of the UAE, on top of its audit work, performs a number of other tasks based on the respective audit findings.
The reports drafted by the SAI on the basis its audits are transmitted to the audited entities. Apart from the deficiencies identified, they also contain recommendations on how to avoid or remedy such shortcomings. This provides the audited entities with an opportunity to take the necessary action and implement the SAI's recommendations.
The SAI also drafts annual reports which are submitted to the Supreme Federal Council of the UAE, to the Council of Ministers and to the National Council. These annual reports include the major findings of the audits performed by the SAI in any given financial year. They help decision-makers in the areas of planning and policy ensure the efficient and effective use and management of public funds, both of receipts and of expenditures, improve the rules governing the government entities' fiscal and accounting agencies, and hence contribute to the successful implementation of plans designed to further develop and improve the public sector.
H.E. went on to explain that the SAI also conducts investigations if, in the course of an audit, it finds that public funds have been misused or spent unlawfully in the course of an audit. In a first step, the SAI itself, through its dedicated unit for the fight against corruption and fiscal offences, conducts investigations with the entities concerned and tries to recover the funds. If it emerges during such an investigation that a fiscal offence has been committed, the SAI will file a criminal complaint with the competent public prosecution service and refer the case to the latter. Within the framework of its mandate, the SAI may also impose disciplinary sanctions against those staff members who are responsible for the irregularities at the audited entities. If shortcomings are detected in the financial operations, the SAI may directly request the entity in question to restitute the amount which was spent unlawfully or in violation of the applicable rules. If, however, the audit finds that a law has been breached, and that the offence committed ought to result not only in the reimbursement of the funds, but also in the lawful punishment of the offender, the SAI will file a criminal complaint with the competent public prosecution service.
INTOSAI: His Excellency reported the SAI of the UAE enjoys full membership in the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), the umbrella organisation of public-sector auditing. INTOSAI comprises more than 195 member SAIs in total, which are all members of the United Nations.
"The SAIs voluntarily submit themselves to so-called peer reviews", H.E. went on to explain. The SAI of the UAE is among those SAIs within INTOSAI which have already undergone a peer review. The outcome of this peer review confirms the extremely high and advanced standard of the procedures and methods applied by the SAI in its audits. This result united the INTOSAI members in their decision to place their trust in the SAI of the UAE and to assign it the honourable task of hosting the next international congress of INTOSAI in the year 2016.
Compliance with statutory provisions: His Excellency emphasized that the violation of statutory rules and regulations governing the management of public funds was the most frequent form of misuse, in particular when it comes to the awarding of service or consultancy contracts. In this field, contracts are often awarded without quality checks or without clearly measurably goals being defined, which as a consequence would not only severely impair the evaluation of the benefit of such services, but also lead to public funds being wasted.
In this context, H.E. added that the waste of public funds would frequently also manifest itself in the use of funds for obtaining certifications which however neither conformed to the government's statutory requirements nor were they recognized. In such cases, audits of the real conditions revealed that the audited entity, while claiming a certification, frequently showed deficiencies in its institutional leadership and financial regulations, as well as lacking and/or inexistent internal controls. This fact would inevitably lead to a misuse of public funds.
International activities: As far as the international activities of the SAI of the UAE are concerned, H.E. explained that - in addition to being a member of INTOSAI - the SAI of the UAE was also a full member of several regional and international organisations. Accordingly, the SAI of the UAE is a full member of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI), the Arab Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ARABOSAI) and the association of audit institutions of the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Moreover, the SAI maintains close links with several Supreme Audit Institutions in Europe, the USA and other parts of the world.
As H.E. outlined, the SAI of the UAE, by its active participation in regional and international audit activities, as well as the excellent achievements of its staff and the use of advanced methods and modern scientific standards, is delivering its tasks in a convincing manner. In the UAE, progress and modernity in all walks of life blend harmoniously with the openness of its people and a tolerant society.
The achievements of the SAI of the UAE to date are crowned by yet another milestone: The SAI will host the twenty-second international congress of INTOSAI to be held in 2016 in Abu Dhabi. In this role, His Excellency Dr Harib Al Amimi has taken over the position of first Vice-Chair of INTOSAI in 2013. Hosting the congress in the year 2016, H.E. will serve as Chairman of INTOSAI for a term of three years.
"In addition to its audit tasks, the SAI has also been charged with ensuring the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) which the UAE signed in 2005", H.E. further commented. In exercising this responsibility, the SAI participates in the working groups which have formed in the course of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention. Moreover, a national group of experts has been set up, composed of SAI representatives as well as staff members of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Presidential Matters and representatives of the public prosecution service. H.E. added by way of explanation that the first phase of work consisted of a review as to what extent national legislation implemented in the UAE to fight corruption conforms to the requirements of the UN Convention. The outcome of that review is most satisfactory for the United Arab Emirates, since the legislation in force as well as the statutory dispositions governing the fight against corruption and the punishment of offenders were found to be largely consistent with the requirements laid down in the UN Convention. Moreover, the expert group is currently preparing the second phase of work which is due to start in the course of this year.
Government audit: H.E. Dr Harib Al Amimi explained that any form of audit requires a high level of competence, since auditors can only deliver their tasks in a satisfactory manner, if they have the required technical know-how. In many countries of the world, auditors are not allowed to engage in audit work, if they do not hold a professional certification in addition to their professional competence. In this way, auditors must comply with generally accepted rules governing internal and external audit during their work, as well as with a professional code of ethics. The SAI of the UAE is taking every effort to give its staff the opportunity to access such professional certifications and thereby upgrade their competences and excellence. Moreover, the SAI has developed a further training programme that is to allow its staff to deliver effectively also in the future. Besides, long-term plans have been adopted so that all posts at the SAI can be filled with local staff. On that matter, H.E. added: "The percentage rate of local staff in the administrative sector is already at 100%, while in the technical sector the rate is 75%. The rate of termination of employment for lacking performance has already dropped to less than 2%."